Last updated on January 25, 2022

Children’s best interests paramount in Georgia custody modifications

On behalf of Josie Siemon

When seeking a child custody modification in Georgia, it’s important to know that courts always aim to act in the best interests of kids.

When setting up child custody and visitation plans, parents and Georgia family courts aim to establish an arrangement that ultimately is in the best interests of the children involved. This is why courts require both parents to submit a parenting plan – either together or separately – clearly outlining decision-making processes, transportation issues and time-sharing schedules.

Over time, however, circumstances may change for one or both parents, necessitating a modification to the original custody agreement. This can be a difficult process, as Georgia law only allows for custody modifications if there are significant changes in family circumstances or the court deems that the proposed adjustment would be in the best interests of the kids. To start this process, the parent seeking the change needs to submit a new parenting plan to the court.

Situations associated with child custody modification

According to O.C.G.A. 19-9-3 (2010), courts in Georgia may consider a custody modification if the custodial parent needs to move into a new home, especially if the children would move into the residence with the parent. However, the noncustodial parent in this circumstance would be able to argue that the change would be detrimental to the kids – something the court would then analyze.

If one parent plans to move to a new residence, he or she must notify the other. Per Georgia law, custodial parents must provide at least 30 days notice before the move takes place and keep the other parent informed of the new address. An exception would be if there are threats of domestic violence or a restraining order in place, in which case the custodial parent would likely not have to update the other parent on the move.

The same is true for noncustodial parents who may need to move out of the area or out of the state due to a change in employment or other factors. If this impacts their ability to visit with their kids as often as required in the original custody order, for example, they must seek a modification and notify the other parent of their intentions.

Minors allowed to have some input

In Georgia, state law allows minors aged 14 and older to pick the parent with whom they live, and courts typically honor these wishes as long as the new arrangement is in the child’s best interests. Any eligible child requesting this change will prompt a custody reevaluation, and the judge will look at both the child’s wishes and various other factors that may determine whether the modification would benefit or harm the minor.

Additionally, children aged 11 and older are allowed to make their preference known as to which parent they would rather live with, although courts tend not to place enormous weight on their input. In some situations, judges may opt to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child as a neutral outside party, helping the court reach a sound decision.

The bottom line is that there are numerous factors that go into modifying a child custody agreement, and it is important to work with a skilled legal professional to help ensure you protect both your rights and those of your children. Meet with a dedicated family law attorney in Alpharetta for further guidance.

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